SMC Dance Master Class and Lecture with 'Silbestre"-style Originator

Heat, good vibrations, conviviality, radiating energy, body skills, artistic and cultural expression as well as enthralling Afro-Brazilian live drumming were all shining when Rosangela Silvestre, a choreographer, teacher and dancer, came to Santa Monica College and gave a Brazilian Dance Master Class and Lecture to SMC students last Thursday.

"It is a very enriching experience for the dance major students - this exposure to international masters broadens their scopes of the dance field," said Judith Douglas, an SMC dance faculty teacher. Sponsored by the Santa Monica College Association, the event attracted many SMC students interested in discovering a specific dance training technique renown and taught internationally, that was developed by Silvestre herself, called the Silvestre technique.

Born in Salvador de Bahia, Silvestre was soothed in the vivacity of the Brazilian culture where, at a young age, she observed and learned the world of dance, Candomblé and its orixás.

Candomblé is a religion that was first introduced to Brazil by African slaves worshiping orixás as a way to preserve their religious traditions and avoid Christian oppression. Today, Candomblé is popularly practiced in Brazil, especially in Bahia where many Candomblé houses host these colorful spiritual celebrations. Silvestre has studied and applied her technique and specific gestures Brazilians perform before and during the ceremony, working and developing their bodies to reach a better physical ability to dance.

But Silvestre is not part of the Candomblé religion even though she has developed a training system based in the gestures and symbols of Afro-Brazilian culture gestures; however, Candomblé is not the sole element of her technique.

Within the Afro-Brazilian culture, the artist has a strong background in ballet and contemporary movement vocabularies, which are incorporated in her technique. Not only does her technique incorporate gestures and symbols of Orixa dances but it also includes the weariness of Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art and body skills.

"I teach a technique about body skills - not only movements. There is no right or wrong with movements but with technique you really have to study," said Silvestre.

During her lecture the Afro-Brazilian dancer explained that the orixás are a cosmic energy that shares similitude with chakras and relates to the four basic elements of earth, air, water and fire. Because of the angular movements of the orixás gestures, in her technique the artist has divided the body in three triangles that need to be balanced in order to positively carry out and reach a dramatic expression.

The first triangle starts from the top of the head to the shoulder line and represents intuition. The second is from the shoulder line to the hips where perception or expression is located. Finally, the last triangle is from the hips to the feet and represents balance "You have to think about what you are doing and incorporate emotions and intuitions at the same time," said Linda Yudin, a Brazilian dance teacher at SMC and who is also a part of the Brazilian dance company called Viver Brasil.

Yudin also uses the Silvestre technique in her teaching because she believes that the technique not only includes dramatic mythology and cultural aesthetic, ballet and contemporary dance vocabularies, but it also brings clarity to the movements.

"The technique gives a better understanding of the movement's meaning," said the teacher, happy that SMC students were able to look at deeply into a foreign form of dance that has a great technique, breaking the usual clichés made about foreign dances as folk steps and recreational dances.

Many SMC students felt inspired by the artistic beauty, the concise technique and vibrant cultural richness they energetically shared in Rosangela Silvestre's impassionate class and lecture.

"It made me discover a different dimension to Brazilian dance that I have never heard of," said Rosalba Jasso, a dance major.

For Isabelle Mc Hugh, a student of Yudin's, the experience was fascinating.

"She was fabulous. It really was a self-growth experience. I just want to keep studying this," said Mc Hugh, who was thrilled by the spirituality involved in this art. Mc Hugh has studied Ballet as well and said that she learned to accept her body better with Yudin's class.

"In ballet you have to be skinny and correspond to a mold. Here, who ever you are, your body becomes a beautiful instrument," she said.

For more information, you can visit www.viverbrasil.com or contact the dance department at 310-434-4856.

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